John Key and John Banks Conversation New Zealand Election 2011

by norman on November 19, 2011

For those that don’t know or are overseas I’ll start with a little background detail. In the upcoming election for the government of New Zealand the National Party (the current party in power) is sitting on about 50% support and with proportional representation that we have here this will be more than enough for them to govern alone without a coalition partner, the first government to do so since electoral reform decades ago.

However, things can change in a week, the time to election day from when I’m writing this. Hence, National would like to secure a natural coalition parter. Over the last 3 years they’ve had to rely on the ACT Party (right wing, grew out of the economic liberalism movement of the 80s, but has long since lost it’s way, more of a right wing conservative type, religious intolerance variety and hence only now polling about 1 – 2%), United Party (really just a one man band of has-been deselected Labour and National MPs who had no where to go), and the Maori Party (a surprise coalition party, not a bad bunch who I respect a great deal).

To get MPs into parliament they have to either win a constituency outright, or they are carried into parliament on the party list (this is governed by the party vote, we have two votes in NZ, one for your local MP and one for your party of choice, it is this second vote that is most powerful because it governs the proportionality of parliament). Also, it has been determined, for a party to carry MPs into parliament on the list vote, the party must get over 5%. This sort of keeps all the 1% crazy parties out, although this is a matter of opinion, but anyway, that’s the law as it stands… UNLESS, and this is the interesting point and what has caused such public (although that is debateable) and certainly media attention, a party wins a constituency seat, the threshold is removed, hence a party winning only 2% but no constituency seat gets no MPs, effectively the votes are wasted and get divided up amongst the other parties (in proportion to their support). However, if you win a seat, and get 2% you go to parliament and you carry in another 1 or 2 MPs.

So the National Party has decided that it needs ACT in parliament as it has chosen them as their natural coalition partner. However, they only have about 2% support, so they must win a constituency seat. ACT did have a constituency seat because they had a very popular local candidate who was able to win a seat, but in a fit of madness the party dumped him. The new person, a man called John Banks, is standing in the same seat thinking that the people will now just vote for him. The National Party in the past, it must be said, did give the nod to its own people within the seat, Epsom in Auckland, to give their constituency seat vote to ACT last time to Rodney Hide (the dumped leader) and give their all important list vote to National. Although he did receive nearly 60% support, a great result no matter who is nodding at who. In essence because of the vagaries of the 5% threshold in conjunction with the removal of the threshold by winning a seat, the voters of Epsom are very powerful and can get lots of MPs by strategic voting.

However, I’m about to describe next something that the people of Epsom, and also many in NZ find distasteful. As a result the current candidate for the ACT party who replaced the ousted leader, is only polling 29% even with the nod.

Anyway, and to get to the point. Hence the people of Epsom, this is the National supporters, a nod from their leader to split their vote because naturally they would give both ticks to National. Hence, about 1 week ago, National feeling a little at risk, I don’t know why, and certainly I don’t know why they would ever ever choose the current ACT party to go to bed with, but anyway, the decision was made to give the nod, and to publicly show this, John Key, National Leader and current Prime Minister of our government decided to have cup of tea in a very public place, all the media turned up, just as they wanted to show the people of Epsom what to do. List vote National, constituency vote John Banks the ACT candidate. The media were then asked to step outside, although they could keep filming from the outside through the window. However, one journalist left a tape recorder on the table in a bag and taped the conversation. I understand the journalist, a Mr Ambrose, has said he did this by accident. A number of copies of the tape have been made and are in the hands of various media outlets who have not yet released it. Although there are rumors circulating that it contains some controversial material of public interest about the views of the Members of Parliament about a coalition deal, leaders of various parties and supporters of various parties, but until the tape is released the public does not know.

Now that is the end of the background. A few days ago I posted on facebook a rant about my view on it. I certainly see both sides of the argument, with John Banks and John Key saying it was a private conversation, that they have a right to privacy and that it is illegal to tape people without them knowing about it, and if this is done by accident then the people that are taped need to consent to its release (surprisingly in New Zealand, as far as I understand) only one person needs to consent. Anyway, they don’t consent. The Prime Minister has ordered the police to raid the media establishments to obtain the tapes. The media has taken itself to court (yes an interesting move) to ask the Courts to rule on this case, was this a public or private conversation and are they allowed to release the tapes in the public interest, especially that there is an election in one weeks time. John Banks and John Key are trying to play down the incident, that it is a “storm in a tea cup”. In my view it couldn’t be further away from this. It is dealing with some very very serious matters, and the matter of privacy of the individual certainly is a very valid point, very, I can’t over state this, the PM is arguing from a very strong position. However, on the other side of it is public interest, access by the public to official information, the ability of the press to investigate (and yes sometimes this can be a bit dubious eg. wikileaks, wistleblowers, and possibly the best example the Nixon Tapes/Watergate/FBI whistleblower).

My view, the Prime Minister is a public official, paid by me (tax), engaged in conversation with a person who has been a public official (ex mayor of our largest city, ex government minister of police) and is seeking to be a member of parliament. They were engaged in a media stunt to indicate to the people of an electorate how they should vote by having this conversation in a very public place, surrounded by cameras, albeit through a window. So a employee of mine (a public servant), paid by me (tax) discussing my business (the government of New Zealand, government officials, voters etc). I’m afraid it is my opinion that in this case it isn’t private, the tape should be made public. However, in cases like this because they are certainly not black and white, very very grey, and in a democracy with the rule of law, the best place to decide the matter is in the Court. So this Tuesday, 22nd of November 2011, the Prime Minister has his day in court and so does the media. In a free society this is the best place for it. I just wonder if the police have realised this, or if they are kicking in the doors of private individuals as you read this to get the tapes and have them erased. I hope they can at least wait until Tuesday. But then again, it is the Prime Minister and the ex Minister of Police. I hope our democracy isn’t going down the wrong road. Watch this space and I’ll report on the developments.

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